Odisha is known as the land of Lord Jagannath (literally meaning the Lord of the Universe). The temple built in the 12th Century AD has been the epicenter of Jagannath cult and sees pilgrims flocking the temple town of Puri from all corners of the world throughout the year.
The mysticism associated with the cult of Lord Jagannath overshadows the architectural brilliance of this magnificent temple. Built on a raised platform, the gigantic temple is an architectural marvel in its own right.
The temple saw new additions to its structure till about the 16th Century AD. Unlike other temples of the region, the carvings on the temples are predominantly of gods and goddesses. The entire temple complex is enclosed within two concentric walls, the Kuruma Bheda (Inner wall) and the Meghnad Pachira (Wall). The main entrance to the temple is through Singhadwara located on the Eastern front of the temple with three other entrances along the four cardinal directions. However these are not architecturally aligned indicating that the other entrances might have been created for security purposes since the temple was at the eye of the storm during the tumultuous period between 16th and 18th century.
Some of the architectural feats of the temple
The main temple is constructed in such a way that no shadow of the temple falls on the ground at any time of the day.
The Nilachakra – Or the Blue wheel perched on top of the temple is made of eight metals or asta dhatu. It is believed that if you see the Nilachakra it is as good as seeing the Lord himself.
The flag or the Patitapabana flows in the opposite direction of the wind and is changed every day at sunset and is changed every day. The feet of changing the flag’s rests with a family appointed by the King. They have been doing this ritual for over 800 years, climbing 165 meters, bare feet without any support.
The Mahaprasad or the offering to the Lord is prepared on fire lit by wood charcoal and rice and vegetables, cereals etc. are put in earthen pots and placed on the fire one on top of the other. The pot on the top cooks first.
The Aruna stambha- the 33 ft monolith structure pillar in front of the Singhadwar or the main entrance of the temple was originally located at the Sun Temple, Konark.
Another unique feature of the temple is that the idols of the holy trinity are carved out of wood rather than stone or metal idols. They are also the only deity with the trappings of mortality.
There are many festivals and rituals associated with the Lord, we list a couple.
Devasnana Purnima – the annual bathing ritual, where the holy trinity has brought out from their sanctum on seated in a raised platform and bathed with purified water drawn from a well within the temple premises.
Chariot Festival – This happens during the month of June/July. During the festival, the Lord comes out to the street to greet his devotees, people irrespective of caste, creed & colour can seek his blessings.